Posted by: zebbook | May 30, 2012

SULIAT TO JENIFA; UNILAG TO MAULAG…. Much ado about a name?

SULIAT TO JENIFA; UNILAG TO MAULAG…. Much ado about a name? by Gbenga Osowe

The film “Jenifa” by Funke Akindele is undoubtedly one of the biggest to have been produced in Nigeria in the past 4 years starting from the 1st and 2nd parts (2008, 2009) and the sequel to that being The Return of Jenifa (TROJ) which is arguably the most star studded and probably highest earning film in Nigeria so far this year.

Now, the story is centred around a girl (local champion of her rural community) who gains admission into a tertiary institution (in the city), mixes up with some wayward friend and hence her change of name from SULIAT to JENIFA.  For those who have seen the film, it’s obvious that there was only a change of name but no change of character, intellect, intelligence, perception to life and Jenifa did not actually become more refined (tush in street parlance) than Suliat. So what’s in a name?

As typical Africans, we have a strong belief in the importance of our names in our lives and what we would eventually become in life, hence you see people change their names in adulthood when they have supposedly come to a better understanding of their lives and the “bad or negative” impact of their names. But then, how does it affect the name of institutions and non-living things.

When Dr Goodluck Jonathan, the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Visitor to all Federal Schools (UNILAG, sorry MAULAG inclusive) on May 29th 2012, announced Federal government’s decision to change the name of the prestigious University of Lagos (UNILAG) to Moshood Abiola University, Lagos (MAULAG, MAUL or MAU, Lagos) in honour of the acclaimed winner of the presidential election on June 12 1993, Chief Moshood Abiola, I was suprised at the outcry that followed especially from the students some of whose behaviour seemed as if they have been rubbed of their studentship or their future has been tainted.


Even if I have no qualms with students protesting what they see as an unjust decision, I find it rather appalling that they would go to the extent of blocking the Third Mainland Bridge (the major link between Lagos mainland and Island) for 6 hours (its already 2 hours as I write this) thereby causing unnecessary hardship to the economy (loss of man-hours), endangering of lives (a woman in labour is being endangered as I write) and risking lives and properties because the bridge is being made to bear more load that it safely should at any particular time (civil engineers would tell you that) and wasting their own time while suffering people who had no hand in the decision in the first place.

This action by the students of MAULAG (the name has come to stay is quite baffling considering that these people who are supposedly enlightened would resort to such an unnecessary and unwarranted victimisation of innocent citizens in trying to pass across their “pains” at having the name of their school changed from “tush and sweet sounding” University of Lagos to the supposedly less tush” Moshood Abiola”University, Lagos (MAULAG) and hence we need to ask these questions;

(1)   Is UNILAG the first school whose name will be changed?

The answer to this is a big NO. University of Ife (UNIFE) was renamed Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ogun State Unversity (OSU) became Olabisi Onabanjo University (OOU), Ondo State University (OSUA) became Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba (AAUA).  So why the fuss?

(2)   Does the President have a right to do so?

When I saw some students saying on television that the president did not consult them in making the name change, I laughed at them knowing that the President is the Visitor to all Federal Universities and for as long as schools are funded by the government, this makes him the Proprietor of the schools.  Thus until our tertiary institutions become autonomous and independent of the government powers of name changes and such rest in the president or the state governors (in the case of the state schools). This is not to say that the president ought not to have informed the school authority even if only as a matter of courtesy.

(3)   Is ABIOLA worthy of the “honour”?

A resounding YES is my answer to this. No matter what you may have told about Abiola, his philanthropic nature, his political ambitions and his alleged roles in the coup that overthrew Shagari, it remains a fact that his death was one of the sacrifices Nigeria made to get the democracy we now endure (no, not enjoy). This makes him a hero of democracy and if a Rufus Giwa can have a school named after him, why not an Abiola.

(4)   How relevant is the name UNILAG to the quality of education the students get?

The change of name does not amount to a change of lecturers, change of school structure or equipment available to the students for their academic pursuits so why the cry over the change of name. If the change of name had indicated a hand-over of the school to a less capable management, maybe then there would have been a real issue, otherwise, leave story.

(5)   How come the students are not protesting over the poor standard of education?

It goes beyond any arguments that the state of education in Nigerian Tertiary is to say the least a mockery of standards but the students have not complained about this and even add their voices in condemning their lecturers whenever the lecturers go on strike to demand for an improvement in the standard of education. So why is there such an outcry over a mere change of name?

(6)   Why protest in Lagos? And why block Third Mainland Bridge?

This for me is rather annoying and infantile just showing the idiosyncrasies of the Nigerian student and their spur-of-the-moment nature. I think a more reasonable approach would have been for the students’ representatives to intimate the school authority of their disagreement and let the school authority take the issue up as appropriate.


The  more germane issues should be concerning what effects does this have on the school’s external relations especially outside Nigeria and what steps need to be taken to communicate this change of name to those concerned and hence save students the hassles that comes with them having to verify that MAULAG and UNILAG are one and the same.

Now that the school has been closed for two (2) weeks, what have the students gained from their struggle except a small elongation of their days as students in MAULAG and I urge them to take the next fourteen (14) days to mull over their decision and get back to school with their heads clear.


Now I urge the president to honour more national heroes by making things work and make sure that those who have defrauded Nigeria in one way or another are brought to book so that there can be genuine development  and not paper-listed development indices which do not translate to improved economic status of the average Nigerian.


Meanwhile here are some suggested name changes for more universities if the president wants to do so;

University of Ibadan————————- Lamidi Adedibu University, Ibadan (LAU, Ibadan)

University of Ilorin—————————- Olusola Saraki University, Ilorin (OSUI)

University of Port Harcourt—————- Ken Saro Wiwa Univeristy, Port Harcourt (KSWU)

University of Nsukka————————-Ikemba Ojukwu University, Nsukka (IOU, Nsukka)

University of Benin—————————-Samuel Ogbemudia University, Benin. (SOU, Benin)

University of Uyo——————————-Isaac Boro University, Uyo (IBU, Uyo)


But Mr President should please acknowledge me as the copyright owner of the names sha.



Gbenga Osowe

Follow @gbengaosowe on twitter






  1. Fair enough and well said………

  2. Hmm, I really love this article: very endearing!

  3. tell them

  4. Sorry to burst your bubbles, but the President and Visitor doesn’t have the powers to unilaterally change the name of a University. The University of Lagos was created by Statute and only an amendment of that statute can change the name. #just saying.

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